United Academy

Prospects of Life-Writing Course

Sristi Nyaupane

January 11, 2019
Last updated July 15, 2021
Bridge Course

The experience of an individual is an ample source of historical and socio-political data. Life-writing course includes the theoretical observations that can be found in a life narrative. The course also features different texts of autobiographers. The different types of life-writing are diaries, journals, letters, autobiographies, biographies and memoirs. Life-writing is about composing the self and reflecting about the world. Life-writing derives its content from the synergy of memory and experience.

The genre of life-writing is a recent phenomenon that has gained subsequent focus since the 1990s. Even though people wrote about their lives from the ancient period, it wasn’t a well-known genre. Autobiography and memoirs were underrated. Since the death of big theories, new textualities are gaining much attention. Life-writing has become a source of literary world, with its own experimental and unconventional style. From being the life-narratives exclusive to “great” and “known” persons, the life-narratives today are also about the ordinary people and their lives.

Various aspects of life provide a platform for the narrator to indulge in creative writing and presentation of identity. The narrator can have ample insight and in-depth analysis of self-identity. In a life narrative, the narrator has not one life, but two. The first self is the one seen by others – a social, historical person with social relationships and achievements. The second self is the real one that is only experienced by the narrator. In the process of self-reflexivity, the narrator can define the subjective meaning of his/her own life.

A story of one’s life is not just encoding and immortalizing the experience but also of inducing therapeutic effects. The narrator can use life-writing as an outlet of repressed memories, confessions, guilt and regrets. Pouring out one’s feelings into words, help the narrator from feeling a sense of relief. Just like the narrator, even the readers’ feel a sense of catharsis (purgation). It makes the readers be empathetic, socially consciousness about issues, and ethical in their actions.

In a life narrative analysis, the single authoritative “I” can be found to be of different types. The four types are real or historical “I”, the narrating “I”, the narrated “I” and the ideological “I”. The real “I” is the person situated in the historical context. It is relatable and has the same attributes of the people living at the historical context of that time. The narrating “I” is the writer who has written the text, and is commenting about the past events. The narrated “I” is the person in the text who is going through situations at the time. The ideological “I” is someone who carries certain ideological point of view. For example, in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther Jr, the narrator is a historical figure, a black man oppressed by white community, and also someone who presents the polyvocality of the entire black community to have a direct action against racial discriminatory practice.

Life-writing presents a way to engage readers with knowledge and wisdom. The designed course, available in different colleges and universities also features styles/techniques of writing life narrative of your own. Life-writing is the new course that needs much attention and research to portray and situate human lives in historical contexts.

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